Book Review: Cocktails from Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century


by Col. Austin Bay

New York: Bombardier Books, 2018. Pp. xxii, 186. Biblio., index. $24.00. ISBN: 1682616614

Five Cauldrons of Crisis

Defense analyst, historian, and novelist Bay, a U.S. Army veteran whose service includes a tour in Iraq, looks at five very complex, dynamic crises – essentially wars of varying degrees of violence – that will be influencing the world for decades to come. Each crisis is fueled by a “cocktail” blended by varying “measures” of such “ingredients” as domestic and foreign influences, personalities, ethnicities, resources, religious zealotry, military power, ideology, economics, potential allies and enemies, territoriality, history, and more.

The five cases are:

  • The generations long North Korean Crisis
  • China’s intervention in the South China Sea
  • Russia’s aggressive moves in the Caucasus, Black Sea, and elsewhere
  • Iranian intervention in Yemen
  • The internal conflicts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While each crisis is shaped by differing influences, Bay treats each case in the same way, asking several basic questions to throw light on the ingredients fueling the crisis, discusses the potential consequences, and considers the wider implications:

  • What energizes the conflict?
  • Who are the key actors, what do they want, and how does that contribute to the conflict’s dynamics?
  • What benefits do the actors think they will obtain?

Bay’s treatment offers valuable insights into some of the most critical contemporary crises, any of which could result in wider war drawing in other powers, while giving an interesting and useful methodology with broad applications.

Cocktails from Hell is a good read for anyone interested in how current hot spots could lead to much wider war.


Note: Cocktails from Hell is also available in e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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